part of The Burden of Being Jerry
Jul 24, 2010 1:06pm
Re: Jerry Bio-pic (reprise)
This article appeared in the November 1996 San Francisco Focus
Robert Greenfield: Still, what's inscrutable about Garcia is his incredible artistic nature, and what drove him to heroin. Everybody who loved him, and everybody who knew him, liked him less when he was on heroin -- and told him so. [Famed LSD chemist] Owsley went right into his face and said, "You know, Jerry, you're not very nice when you're on this drug "
He didn't inject it; he always smoked this very pure form of it. And he constantly tried to get straight. His coma in '86 marks the end of his darkest period, when he really lived in a drug stupor. He told Justin Kreutzmann [son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann] that had it not been for the band, he would have been a guy on a street corner who would do anything to score. For the last ten years of his life, you get this back-and-forth: I'm clean, I'm up, I'm back in it.
David Gans: And you can hear that in the music. Sometimes he was sharp and animated, and other times he was vague and disconnected.
Robert Greenfield: This is a guy who carried a lot of emotional weight. At age four, his older brother Tiff chops his finger off. It's an accident; they're playing with an ax. So he's maimed -- a kid has to be sensitive about that. A year later, Jerry's on the beach when his father drowns. Jerry's mother loves him, but she's running a bar. She remarries, an ex-stevedore who can't really relate to Jerry or his brother. And Jerry is cast adrift. He's on his own from the time he's eight or nine, and he doesn't even finish high school. He joins the army at the age of sixteen, but he's such a bad soldier it's hysterical. "Private Garcia, you left the tank in the . . . " "Oh, I'm sorry." "Private Garcia, you were supposed to be back here three days ago." "I'm sorry." He apologized his way out of the army.
Now he's seventeen and living in his car in Palo Alto. You could make a good argument that everything recognized as a unique part of American culture lumped under the term "the sixties" came out of Palo Alto. Ken Kesey's at Stanford, and Robert Stone and all these high-powered writers are getting weird. And Jerry is part of this street scene. Jerry said to me, "The Kesey people were Apollonian and we were Dionysian." In other words, these people don't have any limits. And they're taking acid before anybody. They were living in a beatnik culture of coffee houses and literature. Jerry was quoting from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. He had sections of it memorized. This guy was a self-educated, full-blown intellectual who was dedicating his life to making music.
There was no place for somebody like Jerry to go at that point. No one who wasn't alive in the early sixties can imagine what show business was like. It was completely straight. It was all, you know, The Ed Sullivan Show. There was no Dylan yet. So there was not much Jerry could do.
I don't think people understand that Jerry didn't have to take LSD to become Jerry. This guy was fully formed by the time he got himself thrown out of the army. And everybody who met him knew this. When [Grateful Dead bassist] Phil Lesh met Jerry, he said, "I don't like him. He's too powerful." Jerry had so much charisma. People always looked at him. They always wanted to hang out with him.
A story I really like from that era is told by Sandy Rothman, a bluegrass musician who played with Jerry. Jerry was working at Dana Morgan Music, and a guy came into the music store, took a guitar off the wall and just started playing really fast and furious. Then all of a sudden he stopped. He put the guitar back on the wall and Jerry said, "What's the matter, man? Run out of talent?" He had this cutting edge. He was a very sardonic guy. Poked fun at every thing. Saw through it all.
David Gans: Yet the public image of Jerry Garcia is this easygoing, soulful, gentle and generous man.
Robert Greenfield: To the outside world, Jerry was the Dead. Everybody knew he was the leader. But he didn't want to be the leader. And that's where the famous Grateful Dead way of making decisions came about: "If everybody doesn't want to do it, we're not going to do it." But the reason they got to that concept wasn't so much the hippie social experiment but the fact that Jerry, the one guy who ran the show, who knew more about business than anybody, refused to make decisions on his own.
This source is Jerry Garcia - from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
this is the Relocation and band beginnings section
Garcia stole his mother's car in 1960, and as punishment, joined the United States Army. He received basic training at Fort Ord. After training, he was transferred to Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio of San Francisco. Garcia spent most of his time in the army at his leisure, missing roll call and accruing many counts of AWOL. As a result, Garcia was given a general discharge on December 14, 1960.
After his discharge in January 1961, Garcia drove down to East Palo Alto to see Laird Grant, an old friend from middle school. Garcia, using his final paycheck from the army, purchased some gasoline and an old Chevrolet car, which barely made it to Grant's residence before it broke down. Garcia proceeded to spend the next few weeks sleeping where friends would allow, eventually using his car as a home. Through Grant, Garcia met Dave McQueen in February, who, after hearing Garcia perform some blues, acquainted him with many people from the local area, as well as introduced him to the people at the Chateau, a rooming house located near Stanford University which was then a popular hangout.
On February 20, 1961, Garcia entered a car with Paul Speegle, a 16-year-old artist and acquaintance of Garcia; Lee Adams, the house manager of the Chateau and driver of the car; and Alan Trist, a companion of theirs. After speeding past the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital, the car encountered a curve and, traveling around ninety miles per hour, collided with the traffic bars, sending the car rolling turbulently. Garcia was discharged through the windshield of the car into a nearby field with such force he was literally thrown out of his shoes and would later be unable to recall the ejection. Lee Adams, the driver, and Alan Trist, who was seated in the back, were thrown from the car as well, suffering from abdominal injuries and a spine fracture, respectively. Garcia escaped with a broken collarbone, while Speegle, still in the car, was fatally injured.
The accident served as an awakening for Garcia, who later commented: "(t)hat's where my life began. Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life. It was like a second chance. Then I got serious". It was at this time that Garcia began to realize that he needed to begin playing the guitar in earnest—a move which meant giving up his love of drawing and painting.
Garcia met Robert Hunter in April 1960. Hunter would go on to become a long-time lyrical collaborator with the Grateful Dead. Living out of his car next to Robert Hunter on a lot in East Palo Alto, Garcia and Hunter began to participate in the local art and music scenes, sometimes playing at Kepler's Books. Garcia performed his first concert with Hunter, each earning five dollars. Garcia and Hunter would also play in a band with David Nelson, a contributor to a few Grateful Dead albums, labeled the Wildwood Boys.
In 1962 Garcia met Phil Lesh, the eventual bassist of the Grateful Dead, during a party in Palo Alto's bohemian Perry Lane neighborhood (where Ken Kesey lived). Lesh would later write in his autobiography that Garcia resembled the "composer Claude Debussy: dark, curly hair, goatee, Impressionist eyes".
While attending another party in Palo Alto, Lesh approached Garcia to suggest that he record some songs on Lesh's tape recorder (Phil was musically trained, though he did not start playing bass guitar until the formation of the Grateful Dead in 1965) with the intention of getting them played on the radio station KPFA. Using an old Wollensak tape recorder, they recorded "Matty Groves" and "The Long Black Veil", among several other tunes. Their efforts were not in vain, and they later landed a spot on the show, where a ninety-minute special was done specifically on Garcia. It was broadcast under the title "'The Long Black Veil' and Other Ballads: An Evening with Jerry Garcia".
Garcia soon began playing and teaching acoustic guitar and banjo during this time. One of Garcia's students was Bob Matthews, who later engineered many of the Grateful Dead's albums. Matthews went to high school and was friends with Bob Weir, and on New Year's Eve 1963, he introduced Weir and Garcia to each other.
Between 1962 and 1964, Garcia sang and performed mainly bluegrass, old-time and folk music. One of the bands Garcia was known to perform with was the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, a bluegrass act. The group consisted of Jerry Garcia on guitar, banjo, vocals, and harmonica, Marshall Leicester on banjo, guitar, and vocals, and Dick Arnold on fiddle and vocals. Soon thereafter, Garcia joined a local bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership also included Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.
Around this time, the psychedelic LSD was beginning to gain prominence. Garcia first began experimenting with LSD in 1964; later, when asked how it changed his life, he remarked: "Well, it changed everything [...] the effect was that it freed me because I suddenly realized that my little attempt at having a straight life and doing that was really a fiction and just wasn't going to work out. Luckily I wasn't far enough into it for it to be shattering or anything; it was like a realization that just made me feel immensely relieved".
In 1965, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions evolved into the Warlocks, with the addition of Phil Lesh on bass guitar and Bill Kreutzmann on percussion. However, the band quickly learned that another group was already performing under their newly selected name, prompting another name change. After several suggestions, Garcia came up with the name by opening a Funk and Wagnall's dictionary. He was then promptly greeted with the "Grateful Dead". The definition provided for "Grateful Dead" was "a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial". The band's immediate reaction was disapproval. Garcia later explained the group's feelings towards the name: "I didn't like it really, I just found it to be really powerful. [Bob] Weir didn't like it, [Bill] Kreutzmann didn't like it and nobody really wanted to hear about it. [...]" Despite their dislike of the name, it quickly spread by word of mouth, and soon became their official title.